“ Artist: Matt Willis / Audio CD released 2006-11-20 at Mercury „
The secret to sales success if you find yourself in a boy band appears to be simple; whatever you do, stay in that boy band. Musical history is littered with the failed careers of those who have tried to make a solo career after the break up of, or after splitting from, a boy band. Take That never made it as solo artists and have had to reform for sales success and Boyzone are rumoured to be planning the same thing, although Ronan Keating is an exception that proves the rule. Brian McFadden hasnt made it without Westlife and even going back a little further, East 17 and Five proved that the old saying together we stand, divided we fall applies to music as well as in so much of life.
Busted is another group this theory can be applied to. Fightstar and Son of Dork, the new groups of Charlie Simpson and James Bourne respectively, have failed to set the world alight. Indeed, the former have lost their UK record deal; whilst the latter won several worst awards in 2006. Sadly, despite his attempts to increase sales figures by winning Im A Celebrity 2006, it looks as if the same is going to be true of Matt Willis Dont Let It Go To Waste, which is a dreadful shame as its actually a pretty decent album and he seemed like a decent bloke whilst trapped in the jungle.
The opening track sits fairly comfortably with Willis Busted past. Although its perhaps got a little more of a rock influence than Busteds sound, Hey Kid is a bouncy mid-tempo rock-pop tune that is perhaps a step up from the heavy pop sound of Busted, but only just. It does seem to be trying to appeal to the old fans as well as win new ones and sits on that fence perfectly, as well as managing to be a decent enough tune.
The intro to Luxury suggests that its going a little heavier, as theres a hint of Green Day in the vocals. Its perhaps a little more pop influenced than Green Day as such, but the similarity is there, showing that Willis is trying to step on from Busted and could make it work. This is a bouncy up-tempo pop-punk tune that again falls nicely between the sounds of Busted and something heavier. Willis even manages to sneak a swear word in to distance himself from Busted that little more.
The title track is Willis first attempt at a ballad and Dont Let It Go To Waste isnt too bad an effort. Its got a heavy-pop influence and would have worked really well as a Busted track. This is certainly the most pop influenced track so far and its possibly no coincidence that two of his songs that sound most like Busted were in the first three singles he released as a solo artist. If nothing else, Willis certainly knows who is most likely to be buying this album.
The next track was the debut single and Up All Night runs to much the same formula. Theres a driving bass line running through the song in an attempt to give it more of a rock edge, but Willis vocals are too light to see this as anything more than a pop-rock tune. It is a pretty decent tune and passes by quite quickly and happily, but there is no real effort to move on from Busted that I can hear in this track.
Theres a much greater rock influence in the intro to Ex Girlfriend, which continues through the song, although its again little more than a pop-rock song. Another driving bass line helps drive the song, but its again mostly the relative pop edge to Willis vocal that stops this being more of a rock song than a pop-rock song, even with the obligatory rock swearing. Another one for the Busted fans, really.
Theres another ballad up next with From Myself Baby being an acoustic guitar led track. Theres very little that separates this song from the mundane and its really nothing more than a pop ballad. I think Willis is trying to get more of an edge to his vocals to elevate the track, but this is certainly the dullest track on the album.
The intro to Fade Out sounds almost like a sample of Audioslaves Cochise. Sadly, the song doesnt retain that heavy edge and turns out to be just another pop-rock track, although not a bad one. Theres a bit more of an edge this time around, giving it more of a rock influence than before, but still not enough that youd call this a rock song.
Theres another acoustic intro to Who You Gonna Run To, although this one doesnt stay as a ballad. Once more, however, it is little more than a mid-tempo pop-rock track, although Willis does try and give it a little more edge at some points. As with the majority of the tracks here, Willis past as a member of Busted is underlying this song.
Just as I was starting to give up on him, though, Sound of America comes along and has that little extra edge to it. Admittedly, theres not a lot more here than one of Busteds heavier moments, but this has enough about it to make a solid power-pop track, not too dissimilar to the likes of Sum 41, although it falls a little short of their sound.
Theres another decent rock intro to Get Bored that sounds a little like New Found Glory, although the chugging riff and the vocal delivery bring the likes of Bowling For Soup more to mind. The chorus sounds more like the former band, however. Thats really where this song suffers, as its caught between its influences and they dont sit terribly well together and that makes this feel like a couple of songs, albeit fairly decent ones, welded together. Unfortunately, its not really worked and you can see the join. Its a shame, as the sound Willis has here is the furthest away from the heavy pop he used to play that he manages.
Unfortunately, after a slightly more promising moment, Willis chooses to end the album with another ballad. Falling Into You is an attempt at a power-pop ballad and it does fairly well at being so, until the string section comes in and stamps a pop influence all the way over the track. Its a bit of a shame, as the rock influence was noticeable over the ballad which hadnt been the case on his previous efforts.
After a couple of minutes of silence after the track, theres a hidden track that doesnt add anything to the quality of the music on the album. Its another acoustic pop ballad which has very touching lyrics, but would have worked out nicely on a Busted album if not for the slightly more mature subject in the lyrics, which wasnt really their style.
Matt Willis is likely to find himself caught between two groups. Those who hated Busted wont buy the album, despite how far hes trying to distance himself from his boy band past; which listening to the album isnt actually all that far. Those who were huge fans of Busted will be put off by the slightly heavier edge to the music, as hes desperately trying to be a rock artist and not a pop star on this album, even if he doesnt entirely succeed.
This is the albums main failing point musically. In trying to please everyone, Willis has made an album that alienates everyone and is sadly generic. It has a little bit of the Busted heavy pop sound and a little bit of an influence from similar bands on the heavier end of the power-pop spectrum, but doesnt have enough of either to fit in any particular genre. Its notable that the albums better moments are when Willis either sticks to the old Busted sound, such as on Hey Kid or Up All Night or when he does succeed in moving away from that, as on Sound of America.
Despite the fact that there are a few great heavy pop tunes here, album sales so far have reflected its tendency to sit between genres, rather than in one. Whilst this is 50 minutes of half decent music, its one you should only really buy if youre a particular fan of the types of slightly immature power pop put out by the likes of New Found Glory or Rooster, or who loved Busted. Even then, seek out cheaper copies, such as those available from 50p on eBay or from £3.75 at the Amazon Marketplace, rather than paying the full price of £8.99 from Amazon. Its not a bad album, really. Its just a little too unsure of what it wants to be to be a really good one.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Hey Kid
3 Don't Let It Go To Waste
4 Up All Night
5 Ex Girlfriend
6 From Myself Baby
7 Fade Out
8 Who Are You Gonna Run To
9 Sound Of America
10 Get Bored
11 Falling Into You/Me And Your Mothe